The Element Case
Clay Richardson is a well-known artist who owns his own gallery.
Quint Hawk, a police detective makes contact with Clay when he sees a portrait Clay has painted in the window of the gallery. A portrait of a homeless young man who was murdered just days before. Unfortunately, Clay has no idea who the subject was.
Several months later, Quint contacts Clay to, again, ask about one of Clay's paintings. The subject has been murdered, as has a third man in another of his paintings.
The reclusive artist and the handsome detective are drawn to each other, as the two men try to determine what is happening, and why. They come up with a plan to catch the killer. A plan that could end up in their deaths, before they can decide if there is more to their feelings than a couple of very good nights in Clay's bed.
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Clay replied scathingly.
"Score one for the home team."
"You're very good," the young man commented, peering down at the drawing Clay was doing of one of the men on the dance floor.
Disgusted by the interference, Clay snapped the sketchpad closed, put it on the bar, and took a long pull on his beer.
"Prick," the guy muttered as he walked away.
Ignoring the comment, Clay opened the pad again and, after resting his feet on the rungs of the empty stool next to him, went back to what he was doing. He had a concept for his next painting that required dancing bodies in motion, and where better to find them than here at a club where he was a fairly regular patron.
He finished two sketches and was starting on a third when, again, someone tried to interrupt him.
"I know you," a deep voice said from behind him.
"Well, I don't know you," Clay replied after taking a quick look at the man, "and I'd like to keep it that way."
There was a low chuckle then the man said, "The kid was right. You are a prick."
"So I've been told more than once."
"Not the best way to win friends and influence potential buyers."
"Since you're neither, I'm not too worried about it."
Again the man chuckled. "Now how do you know that, Mr Richardson? Perhaps I'm interested in purchasing one of the paintings that I saw at your gallery."
"Then talk to the manager, Amanda Dane. She handles that." Clay finally turned to face the man, who looked about his age, if a bit older—a man who sported a neatly-trimmed beard and mustache. "Why the hell are you bothering me here?"
"Because I can?" The man smiled, holding out his hand. "I'm Quinton Hawk. Quint for short."
"Apparently you know who I am, so I'll forego introducing myself in return," Clay said, ignoring Quint's outstretched hand. "Now if you don't mind, scram. I have better things to do than try to make nice at the moment."
Instead of leaving, Quint pulled out the stool Clay was using as a footrest—forcing Clay to move his feet—and sat down. "Buy you a drink?" Quint asked.
Clay's mouth tightened angrily as he held up his half-empty bottle. "I have one."
Quint glanced at it then ordered water with a lemon twist. "You have a good eye," he said after taking a drink.
"That's why I draw and you…don't."
"Presumptuous, but true. An artist I'm not."
"But you know what you like," Clay retorted with a sneer.
"Yep. I wasn't kidding when I said there's a painting of yours at the gallery I'm interested in—Element of Woe."
Clay shrugged, going back to his sketching.
"All right, cards on the table, something I should have done to begin with. But after watching you put that kid down, I couldn't help yanking your chain a bit to see if you were an ass with everyone."
"Now you know that I am." Clay wanted to get up and walk away but what Quint had said piqued his interest. "What cards?"
Before replying, Quint took out his wallet, opening it to show Clay his badge. "I'm a detective with the DPD."
"Okay. And that concerns me why?"
"Because I need to know who the young man in Element of Woe is."
"I'm sorry. I don't know his name. I did a couple of sketches of him when I saw him in a park and turned them into that painting."
"Why the interest in him?"
"A man was murdered a week ago, on May eighth. I passed your gallery this morning, saw the painting, and realized the guy in it was the spitting image of the murder victim. When I asked the woman at the desk how to get in contact with you, she gave me your phone number. I tried calling you but…"
Clay nodded. "I don't answer it unless I'm in the mood. How did you manage to track me down here?"
"Triangulation. Not an exact science but it got me in the neighborhood and from there it was just footwork."
"You must have been pretty desperate."
"The young man who was murdered died hard."
"I'm sorry. I wish I could help you, but as I said, I only saw him in the park."
"I know where it is. Was he alone?"
"He seemed to be. That's why he caught my attention. There were a lot of people around but he was sitting by himself on Block Fountain." Clay snorted. "Why they call it a fountain when there's no water… But that's beside the point. He was sort of curled up against one of the blocks, looking like he'd lost his last friend. He caught my eye. I sketched him and he became the centerpiece of the painting."
Quint nodded. "At least that gives us a starting point, presuming that wasn't the first time he was there. Given that he seems to have been homeless, I suspect he hung around that area, at least sometimes."
"Where was he—? Where did you find his body?"
"Down by Cherry Creek. Not all that far from Skyline."
Clay shook his head. "I wish I could have been more help."
"Not your fault." Quint stood, started to leave, then said, "There are times I wish I had the guts to be as cantankerous as you."
"It's all in the attitude. Act like an ass in public and people leave you alone."
"Not an option in my case, considering what I do. As my mother used to say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Quint chuckled. "I never did figure out why you'd want to catch flies. Anyway, thanks for your help. At least it sort of pinpoints the area he probably hung out at."
"Welcome," Clay replied. He watched the detective walk away, grabbed his pencil, and did a quick sketch from memory of Quint's face. He'd be a good subject for a painting. He shook his head. Not like he'd be willing, I'm sure. Getting back to what he'd been doing before the detective had interrupted him, he focused in on a pair of young men on the dance floor and knocked out some rapid sketches.